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Boom and bust

Thessa Lageman
Journalist, Writer, Photographer
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piqer: Thessa Lageman
Friday, 30 November 2018

Will The Oil States Protest Against Less Material Benefits?

Jessie Moritz, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Princeton University, interviewed around 170 citizens of Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, including members of royal families, ministers, entrepreneurs, leaders in civil society, and youth activists involved in protests since 2011.

Her research focuses on the political economy of oil in the “Rentier States”, the oil states of the Arabian Peninsula (a type of study that seems not without risks these days, following the British academic who was accused of being a spy by the UAE).

Moritz is interviewed by podcast host and Professor of Political Science Mark Lynch from the Institute for Middle East Studies at the George Washington University

She, for example, asked people why they got involved in the 2011 protests. Most of the protests weren’t calling for more democracy. In some cases, there were material reasons. Especially in Oman and Bahrain unemployed was an issue.

Some of the people were motivated by personal reasons. They received a public sector job, free health care, and free education, as is usually the case, but a family member was imprisoned.

The host also asks Moritz about her conversations with loyalists. "Do they talk about the state as it’s a good deal for us materially, or do they invoke things like patriotism?"

Materialism is certainly not the primary reason to be loyal. In Qatar, for example, the sense that the state is listening and responding appeared to be very important, even with minor issues.

Now the price of oil has gone down and budget constraints start hitting many of these states, the host asks, what do you expect?

Moritz replies there have been some protests when the introduction of taxes and cutting of subsidies was announced. However, eight years after the Arab Spring repressive tactics have increased, so mass protests are unlikely. Important is also the failure of success in neighbour states. As a political dissident in Bahrain said:

Look at Syria or Libya, we don’t want to end up like that. 
Will The Oil States Protest Against Less Material Benefits?
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